April 11, 2024
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Is It Time to Stop Sending Our Children To Elite Colleges and Universities?

Jewish day schools are the ultimate fusion of religious education and elite secular education. High school students take up to nine periods of Gemara each week but also take AP physics and AP calculus. The goals are to educate these students to become leaders in the Jewish community and society at large. Many schools believe they must get their graduates into as many top universities and colleges as possible to facilitate this. Each year, they proudly publish what schools their students have gotten into; Harvard, Yale, Columbia and Princeton are some of the biggest crowd pleasers. NYU is a perennial favorite for those who can’t get into an Ivy League institution.

When the acceptance letters are sent, conversations like these become commonplace. “Did you hear that X high school got three kids into Harvard this year? Or, “Can you believe that at X high school not one kid got into Penn this year?”

On Thursday, Oct. 5, I ran into a friend telling me about the academic pressure her son was under because he desperately wanted to go to the University of Pennsylvania. She also mentioned that she was shocked that UPenn had no organized Shabbat lunch, to which I answered something that had become very clear to me over the past few years, “Of course, they don’t. They no longer want religious Jews there.” How do I know this is the case? I see the vocally anti-Zionist professors and administrators on campuses, events such as the yearly Israel apartheid weeks, and the co-opting of popular campus groups such as the Women’s March and Black Lives Matter by rabid anti-Zionists.

Looking at the numbers, you will find hard evidence that Jews are no longer wanted. In 1967, Jewish students at Harvard and Yale were between 20-25%, and at the University of Pennsylvania and Columbia, it was 40%. What are those numbers today? At Harvard, Jews now make up just under 10% of undergrads, and at Yale, the number is down to around 12%. Columbia’s Jewish population is down to 22% and Penn is now only 16%. The number of Orthodox Jews at Penn in the early 2000s had reached 200; since then, it has dropped to about 70 at a time when the number of students graduating from Jewish day schools grows each year.

I know that on Oct. 5, this student’s Jewish high school desperately wanted to get into Penn so they could show off his admission on the yearly list of colleges their students got into and to prospective parents. How do they feel about the University of Pennsylvania today after the events of Oct. 7?

By the time Shabbat was over, the sadistic details of the terrorist attack had begun to trickle out of Israel. Over the next few days, we learned about what had transpired. We saw images of women being paraded around Gaza with bloody pants that were the result of injuries from brutal rapes; we heard of babies being murdered by decapitation and then being burnt in front of their parents; of the murder of elderly Holocaust survivors, of the hundreds of young adults that had been brutally tortured, raped and murdered at a desert rave that our children could have been at if we lived in Israel, and that Hamas had kidnapped almost 200 people including the elderly, women, children and babies.

Many of the universities whose admission our Jewish day schools, their students and parents covet have spent the last few years making very public statements about world events such as climate change and George Floyd. On the day 1,400 Jews were murdered in cold blood, they decided it was no longer a good idea. Since the brutal terrorist attack on Israel, schools such as Columbia, Harvard, Yale, University of Pennsylvania, and NYU have not denounced the most brutal and systematic attack on Jews since the Holocaust.

It is time for the schools and parents who want to send their kids to these institutions to finally wake up and realize that they would be fools to do so. Times have changed and you no longer have to go to an Ivy League school to get a job as an analyst at Goldman Sachs. Most prestigious institutions no longer hire only graduates from these elite institutions. Your child will get a better education and be safer at a school that does not teach their students that intersectionality and decolonization can be used to justify the murder of Jews.

Jewish day schools must start guiding their students and their parents to colleges and universities that have not only made a strong statement against the evil attacks Hamas terrorists perpetrated against Israeli civilians but also have zero tolerance for antisemitism on their campuses. It’s time for us to stop applying to and attending schools that don’t.


Beth Schwartz lives in Manhattan and her four children all went to yeshiva day schools.

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